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Третья всероссийская дистанционная олимпиада
по английскому языку для студентов-гуманитариев
"Great Britain - The Glorious Past and The Challenging Present"


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1. Why is the death penalty called the CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?

capital punishment

Capital punishment is the judically ordered execution of a convict for a serious crime. The word “capital” developed from the Latin “caput”, which means "the head". Generally speaking, capital punishment is the penalty for the most serious and severe crime. In other words, a person who commited such a crime deserves nothing but death. There exist several kinds of death penalty, one of which is decapitation. (Сергеева Ирина)

2. Why are the headquarters of the British Police called SCOTLAND YARD?


The name “Scotland Yard” is bound up with the history of the buildings where the British Police is located. Scottish kings and their courtiers used to stay in a couple of buildings in the centre of London while visiting the city. That’s how the name “Scotland Yard” originated. Later London’s criminal Police moved to those premises and got this name as well. Now the name “Scotland Yard” is renowned all over the world. (Пьянкова Анастасия)


The exact origin of this name is unknown, though a popular explanation is that it was the former site of the residence of the Scottish kings, or their ambassadors, when they stayed in England prior to the union of Scotland and England. The name derives from the headquarters’ original location on Great Scotland Yard, which is a street off Whitehall. The building’s main entrance was at number 4 Whitehall, but a public office was installed at the rear of the building in Great Scotland Yard and so gave the building its name. The street had become the site of a number of government buildings by the 17th century, with the architects Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren living there. (Юровская Марина)

3. What's the origin of the phrase "goodnight, sleep tight"?

Good Night

All of us like to sleep and we are asleep during 1/3 of our life! It is horrible, but it’s the fact! It is also the fact, that the better mattress we have the better we sleep. However in the Middle Ages people did not have such comfortable mattresses like we do now, and their mattresses were made of crossed ropes strained over the wooden framework. The problem was that these ropes loosened from time to time and people made them TIGHT to sleep well. (Мальцев Дмитрий)


In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were roped to beds so that they were immovable. You could pull on those cords if you wanted to tighten the mattress and make the bed firmer to sleep on. It is from this habit that the phrase “Goodnight, sleep tight” derived. Perhaps modern mattress producers should take on the experience of their medieval colleagues. (Пьянкова Анастасия)


The expression “good night, sleep tight” originates from medieval England, when bed frames used to be sprung with ropes. They had to be pulled tight to make the bed firmer and more comfortable. Thus it would compress any inhabiting bedbugs, guaranteeing you a more or less good night. (Казаков Григорий)


The children's rhyme "Good night, sleep tight..." dates to the late 19th century and means «sleep well». But the process of «tightening beds» appeared in Shakespeare's time, when beds had a foundation consisting of a rope net. In order to make the bed firmer, one had to tighten the ropes with the help of a special iron gadget, thus preventing the mattress from sagging. That’s why tightening the ropes would help one get a good and comfortable night sleep. (Кириллова Татьяна)

4. Why is it forbidden for a British monarch to enter the House of Commons?

House of Commons

This odd tradition originated in 1641, when King Charles I attempted to get into the House of Commons with a group of armed soldiers and arrest several members of the chamber who had been accused of treason. However, the Speaker of the House, protecting the rights of the members, didn’t let them in. From then on, the prohibition marked MPs’ independence from the monarch. These days even to hear the Queen’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament the Commons are invited to the House of Lords by a special official called “Black Rod”. (Пьянкова Анастасия)

5. What's the origin of the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"?

Ps and Qs Ps and Qs

The expression “mind your P’s and Q’s” made its appearance at the printing house. As far as the letters “p” and “q” are quite similar on a typewriter’s keyboard, it’s as easy as ABC to confuse them. Therefore typists had to keep their eye on these embarrassing letters very thoroughly. Now typewriters are replaced by computers, but the expression survived. In the contemporary English it means watch how you talk and act. (Пьянкова Анастасия)


To tell the truth, there exist several explanations of the origin of this phrase, for instance the latest Edition of Collins English Dictionary assures that it is an alteration of "mind your please’s and thank you's". But the most plausible explanation is the following: there was a practice in British pubs of tallying a customer's purchases on a blackboard behind the bar, with "P" standing for "pints" and "Q" for quarts. When the day of payment came each customer was liable for each mark next to his name, so he had to "mind his P's and Q's" or he would get into financial trouble. Sometimes this phrase was used with respect to the barkeeper himself, meaning «mark the customer's tab accurately». (Кириллова Татьяна)


This expression means “be extremely careful in what one says or does”. The origin of the expression is not certain, though one of the explanations is that it was a warning to school- children, learning to write, that they should exercise care in the formation of these two letters, to make them distinct from one another. Another explanation is that in public houses customers' accounts for beer were scored with P’s for pints and Q’s for quarts. A third one is that in France at the time when huge wigs were worn, and bows were made with great formality, teachers of deportment and dancing used to tell their pupils that they should pay attention to their pieds (“feet”), and to their queues (“wigs”) that might easily be deranged or fall off. (Юровская Марина)

6. How is the name of one of the ingredients of traditional English breakfast related to the sickness of Maria Stuart Ц Mary the Queen of Scots?

Mary the Queen of Scots

In 1561 on her way from Calais to Scotland Mary the Queen of Scots felt seasick. To ease her queasiness she ate marmalade, since at that time quinces (of which it is made) were regarded as healing fruit. There is even a theory that the very word marmalade derives from the French phrase "Marie est malade" which means “Mary is ill”. (Казаков Григорий)


Traditional English breakfast can include fruit or juice, eggs, ham or other meat, fish, cereal, baked goods, jam or marmalade and tea. During the sickness of Maria Stuart her French maids (In 1548 she was betrothed to the Dauphin Francis, the son and heir of the King of France Henri II and was brought up at the French Court) were always muttering that “Marie est malade” or “Marie malade”, which was easier for the maids. (This phrase was mentioned all the time during the sickness of Maria Stuart). Her Scottish maids thought that marmalade or jam was mentioned and always brought their queen jam or marmalade for breakfast. (Юровская Марина)

7. Why cannot the English Prince William fly in the same plane with his father Prince Charles??


The most important, I would even say vitally important thing for any monarchy is heredity, and the most guarded person after the monarch is the heir to the throne. Of course the British monarchy will not take the risk of losing both kings-to-be (Charles and William), that’s why Prince William and Prince Charles cannot travel in the same plane – in the case of an accident if one heir dies, the other will stay alive and the Windsors will keep the British Throne. (Мальцев Дмитрий)


Prince Charles and his elder son Prince William are the direct heirs to the British throne. They can’t fly in the same plane, because in case of an accident the country might lose the future monarchs. By the way this practice exists not only in Britain, but in the majority of the civilized countries. For instance, in the USA the President of the country can’t travel in the same car with the Vice-president. (Кириллова Татьяна)

8. How is the name of one of the internationally known snacks related to an English nobleman?

English nobleman

The snack named the “sandwich” is really internationally known and internationally loved. It is called by Edward Montague also known as the Earl of Sandwich in the middle of the 17th century. Edward was a well known gambler and during his games (card games which lasted for days) he liked to have some snacks which he could eat without stopping the game. I also like to have some snacks while watching TV but, unfortunately, these snacks are not called after me… (Мальцев Дмитрий)


The legend says that the Earl of Sandwich was a passionate gambler to the very marrow of his bones. Quite frequently he spent days and nights at the gambling table. The only trouble was that from time to time the Earl got hungry and thus had to stop his game and to eat something. One day his servants invented a dish which allowed him to play and eat at the same time: it consisted of fried beef between two slices of bread. It made it possible for the Earl of Sandwich to keep his hands clean and not to take a break during the game. More noticeably, this invention is said to have given birth to the development of “fast food”. (Сергеева Ирина)

9. Why in the UK, is the main street called High Street?

High Street

We may surmise that main streets would be located on the highest place in town or that they had the highest buildings or that people of the highest rank would live there, but another explanation seems true to me. The word “high” has a meaning “of great rank, importance or influence”, i.e. the words “high” and “main” are nearly synonyms. That’s why in English there are expressions “high street”, “high road” and “highway”. (Горобий Алексей)


In medieval times the towns in England were often built as fortresses so that the centre of the town was situated on a high ground. The main street led to the centre where churches, manors and other houses were situated. People travelled up the main street which got the name “High street”. (Попов Андрей)

10. In medieval England bread was divided according to social status. Servants got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the ______ ____________. What is the general name of these best pieces and what does this expression mean these days?


The general name of these best pieces is "the upper crust". Today we use this expression when we refer to the nobility, otherwise called "the cream of society". (Сергеева Ирина)

11. Leofric, the lord of Coventry in the 11th century, was known for his autocratic ways with his subjects. He imposed a heavy tax on his citizens, and his wife, kind and merciful Lady Godiva, protested. So Leofric promised to abolish the tax under one savage condition. What was the condition imposed on Lady Godiva by her iron-hearted husband and how did she manage to get over it?


The condition imposed on Lady Godiva by her husband was to ride on a horse through the town of Coventry being naked. Lady Godiva’s feeling of protest against the heavy tax levied by her husband was so strong that she accepted this condition. But she was after all a decent noble lady, so she couldn’t let people see her naked. Her long hair helped to get over this problem: she got naked, covered her body with her hair and rode through the town! (Горобий Алексей)

The official logo of the British publishing house “Longman” is a “SHIP”. The print-shops founded by Thomas Longman in 1724 were not connected in any way to seafaring activity. However, not far from the premises there was a pub named “The Ship”. Lack of what in the 18th century London made Thomas Longman choose such a symbol for his publishing company?


Because of the absence of mailing addresses in its modern meaning, the location of the necessary premises in the eighteenth century London was identified by the name of the nearest pub. In the case of Longman it was the pub named “The Ship”. (Николаева Ирина)

13. Who was the first English monarch to go from England to France without crossing over the English Channel?


Queen Elizabeth the Second was the first English monarch who arrived in France not having crossed over the English Channel. She travelled from Britain to the continent UNDER THE SEA through the Channel Tunnel, which was officially opened by Her Majesty and French President Francois Mitterrand on the 6th May 1994. (Казаков Григорий)

14. Several significant pieces of legislation were enacted during Henry VIII's reign. They included several Acts which severed the English Church from the Roman Catholic Church and established Henry as the supreme head of the Church in England. Which personal reasons (added to the reasons of national importance) led Henry to such a serious step as the separation from the Roman Catholic Church?

Henry 8

It is well-known that Henry VIII had six wives. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, failed to bear him a son - so Henry VIII wanted to divorce her. Under Catholic rules this was not allowed. Henry VIII had to sever the English Church from the Roman Catholic Church to be able to take another wife. No doubt there were also reasons of national importance: England, the rising great power, couldn’t stand being dependent on the Pope’s authority. (Горобий Алексей)


Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon, and they were happy, but after twenty years Henry became obsessed with the need for a male heir, and he wanted a new wife. Henry claimed that his marriage was illegal, because the marriage to a brother's widow was not allowed, though he had had a special permission for this marriage. The Pope restricted the divorce, but Henry officially denied this prohibition, divorced Catherine and declared separation from the Roman Catholic Church, not being sympathetic to Protestants as well, though. Henry married five more times, and only Jane Seymour bore him the son he was lacking. (Пьянкова Анастасия)

15. When in 1805, English children asked their parents for sweets, the answer was often "No". Instead they were sent to bed and lulled to sleep with the following nursery rhyme:

Naughty Baby
Ella crying
Baby, baby, naughty baby,
Hush, you squalling thing, I say.
Peace this moment, peace, or maybe
__________ will pass this way.
Baby, baby, he's a giant,
Tall and black as Rouen steeple,
And he breakfasts, dines, rely on't,
Every day on naughty people.
Baby, baby, if he hears you
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he'll tear you,
Just as pussy tears a mouse.
And he'll beat you, beat you, beat you,
And he'll beat you into pap,
And he'll eat you, eat you, eat you,
Every morsel snap, snap, snap.

So which historical figure was this scary giant and what did he do to deprive English children of their sweets?

Strange as it may seem, this scary giant was the great French short man Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1805 he arranged a continental blockade against Great Britain: using his great power he obliged all the European nations including Russia to cease trading with Great Britain. Though England had some sources of supply from overseas, Napoleon’s continental blockade was a hard blow on the English economy. The shortage of sweets could be felt by every English child! It is not clear why the English parents depicted Napoleon as a black giant: maybe it helped to frighten children and make them quiet down, maybe parents didn’t know exactly what Napoleon really looked like. (Горобий Алексей)


This “scary giant” is a great historical figure, the man of genius and a brave commander, the conqueror of Europe – Napoleon Bonaparte. He imposed a ban on the import of goods to Britain and thus deprived the kids of their sweets. As for the satirical nursery rhyme – it was the best remedy, which served to stimulate the flames of British patriotism, especially in young citizens against the threat of the French aggression. (Дацук Сергей)

16. In modern diplomacy the term "a round-table conference" is quite frequently used. Who is this expression associated with and what is the underlying idea of such discussions?

Round Table

This expression is associated with King Arthur. He`s said to be the creator of a “round-table conference” in the time of medieval knights. The underlying idea is the idea of equality, as this round table was constructed to avoid arguments about seniority. The idea of the round table is still significant. (Сергеева Ирина)


According to the historical hypothesis the “father” of the quite frequently used term “a round-table conference” – is the legendary King Arthur. The underlying idea of such discussion is to demonstrate the equality, dignity and mutual respect of the valiant knights. So, the very shape of the round table is the best symbol of such a union of equally honorable parties. (Дацук Сергей)


The notion “a round-table conference” refers to the Round Table of King Arthur and his Knights, which, according to the legend, was made by the magician Merlin. Its very shape symbolizes the equity of all who sit at it, so the discussions held at such a table are considered to be trusting and fair. (Казаков Григорий)


This expression is associated with King Arthur, who lived in the 5th or the 6th century and later became the central figure in Arthurian legends. The story goes that King Arthur’s knights constantly quarreled as to where they should sit at the long table in the hall at Camelot at Easter feast. Everyone considered it a great honour to sit near the head of the table, so Merlin, the magician, promised to settle the dispute. Indeed, when the knights entered the new banqueting hall at Pentecoast, they saw a great round table made of stone and wood, which occupied almost the whole hall. The idea was that sitting at the Round Table no one could complain that they were sat at the lowest end or that someone was placed above them. (Мамедова Анастасия )

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